I find my work in the travel industry a blend of delight and shock on a regular basis. I love assisting others with their travel plans, the tedious nature of piecing together itineraries and activities is an exciting journey for me. In ways it is a vicarious experience, and also a chance to share my own journeys and ideas on where guests are traveling.
The downside is catching the negativity that often comes with travel. In fact, my own mouth has been caught complaining about layovers in O’Hare and cold weather in Scotland.
Yet, one has to pause and really think of the privilege it is to be able to travel in this modern world. In my own case, and for many I work with, we have United States passports, one of the most powerful in the world. In my case I am a white, newly middle class woman meaning the color of my skin brings significant pass. I am of able body and of functional financial means. Travel for me is a relatively easy process, and one that I should appreciate more than I do. The reality is that travel is not a right it is a privilege.
For most of the planet leaving your home country, and even your hometown is unattainable. Poverty prevents many a person from ever being able to leave what they know. Even many of the people I grew up with have not had even closely similar experiences to mine. Many are lucky if they leave the state. For many Americans the idea of traveling to another country is simply out of reach. Full Stop.
Yet we gripe about things like layovers and cramped seats. We fuss over spicy foods, or if a castle isn’t as thrilling as one thought it may be. We act annoyed when water doesn’t have ice, or if it’s hard to get a reservation at a Michelin Star Restaurant. We’re angry because Jiro Ono doesn’t want to serve you sushi. Do we even hear ourselves?
My request is this: really think about what you’re upset about.
When I catch myself irritated that I can’t travel as much as I want to all the time, or that flights to Thailand are 22+ hours, I need to remember the facts of our time. We live in a world where travel is more accessible and more affordable for the average person than ever before. We live in a time where more and more people are traveling, studying, and living outside of their home country. We live in a time of global connections well beyond our wildest dreams of two generations before. So why are we complaining?
When my grandmother was born in 1927 if her family had been able to or wanted to travel to Europe they would have had to do the following:
- Train from Burlington, Kansas to Chicago, Illinois. Chicago train to the East Coast probably Boston, Massachusetts or New York, New York. Passenger ship travel to London, England or other European port.
This journey would have likely taken two or more week just to arrive on the European continent, let alone your time traveling around or coming home. The point being is that this was a trip that would not have been accessible to the typical working family in 1930s or 1940s America.
In fact, most people didn’t see Europe unless they were in WWI or WWII, and then it was a Europe at its worse, and not the most desirable for tourism. By the time much of the continent had recovered in the 1970s, many veterans began to return, and their families were in tow.
My grandparents never made it to Europe. My grandma dreamed of the fields of Ireland and Highlands of Scotland. She told me elaborate stories of Roman architecture and Vatican wonders; yet she never had the chance to visit. She studied art in college, and she fantasized about seeing things in person, but for her the fantasy couldn’t become reality. Because, in practical Midwestern manners, the fantasy was okay, the real journey was too much. Her generation simply found it impractical unless you had money, and I mean MONEY, upper middle class MONEY.
As we have entered into a world of cheaper airfare and better technology, my travels to Europe and Latin America have been possible. I came from humble means and busted ass to get to do what I have done. In an example, my mom didn’t even know you COULD study abroad; she grew up in the 80s.
So my point is this, next time O’hare pissed you off (believe me, everyone who has been there, has come to this point) just remember what traveling 100 years ago would have been and remember a 3-hour delay isn’t soooo bad.
Remember how lucky you are to get to go, explore, exist, and be in a widely fascinating world. Be grateful that others help facilitate this journey through their service, kindness, and welcoming heart. Be benevolent in your ear, your money (be generous in tipping, and purchases you can afford), and your patience as all of these things make the travel easier. Finally, a smile is a universal kindness, not to be forgotten.